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GERMAN FEDERAL ELECTION

German election fever: Merkel’s parrots and a talking fox

With hours before the German vote starts, the pressure is on, particularly for the conservatives who are slightly behind in the polls. Their election campaign is getting more creative than ever.

German election fever: Merkel's parrots and a talking fox
German Chancellor Angela Merkel feeding (and being bitten by) Australian parrots at Marlow Bird Park. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

Things are getting weird in Germany as the election campaign reaches the final hours, and we like it. 

On Sunday Germans will head to the polls to elect a new government – one that won’t include the CDU’s Angela Merkel.

Yet the the German chancellor is clearly still the star of the show. Just look at these pictures of her hanging out with a bunch of birds and you’ll see what we mean. 

Angela Merkel larking around. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

Merkel, 67, was visiting Marlow Birdpark which lies in her constituency in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. She’s been representing the area since 1990, while she’s been chancellor for 16 years. 

“I wanted to say ‘arrivederci’ again,” Merkel told a flower seller at the weekly market in Greifswald during her visit to the region on Thursday. 

READ ALSO: Can you guess what happened to Angela Merkel?

In Greifswald, she walked through the pedestrian zone with the new candidate for the CDU direct mandate, Georg Günther, and the CDU’s top candidate for the state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Michael Sack. 

Merkel was surrounded by surprised passers-by who asked her for selfies. She then visited Bad Sülze and then onto Marlow. Merkel has also been on a farewell tour of Rügen this week.

Merkel taking selfies in Marlow on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

“It has always been an honour for me to stand for this constituency,” Merkel said on the sidelines of the visit to the bird park. It was the third time she had visited the park since 2012. Flocks of brightly coloured parrots fluttered around her, eating from her hand. One of them even landed on her head.

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Georg Wendt

Alongside the the federal election, the state election will be held in Meck-Pom on Sunday. According to the ZDF Politbarometer published on Thursday, the SPD are in the lead with 39 percent a few days before the election. The previous coalition partner CDU managed 14 percent of the vote in the poll, and the AfD 16 percent. The Left gathered 11 percent, while the Greens received 7 and the FDP 5.5 percent of the vote.

Weird videos 

Not to be outdone by the chancellor, fellow conservative Friedrich Merz – a longtime rival of Merkel who has tried and failed to get the CDU leadership job twice – released a wacky election video featuring footage of himself when he first stood in the Hochsauerland district in 1994. Yes, that is a fox peering out from behind a tree trunk saying: “Sleep well, Friedrich, and turn off the light” – in Helmut Kohl’s voice.

“From analog 1994 to digital 2021: take a look what my team and I put online today at the end of the election campaign in the Hochsauerland district,” said Merz when posting the video. 

READ ALSO: CDU leadership: Who are the three men vying to replace Merkel?

The conservatives are really pulling out all the stops. Will it nudge them ahead in the race?

Perhaps. The latest polls show the SPD at 26 percent, and the CDU/CSU with 22 percent. It’s very close. 

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POLITICS

Germany’s ‘traffic light’ parties sign coalition agreement in Berlin

Two and a half months after the federal elections on September 26th, the three parties of the incoming 'traffic light' coalition - the SPD, Greens and FDP - have formally signed their coalition agreement at a public ceremony in Berlin.

Traffic light coalition
Germany's next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (front, left) on stage in Berlin with other members of the new coalition government, and their signed agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The move marks the final stage of a 10-week week process that saw the three unlikely bedfellows forming a first-of-its-kind partnership in German federal government. 

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is now due to be elected Chancellor of Germany on Wednesday and his newly finalised cabinet will be sworn in on the same day. This will mark the end of the 16-year Angela Merkel era following the veteran leader’s decision to retire from politics this year. 

Speaking at the ceremony in Berlin on Tuesday morning, Scholz declared it “a morning when we set out for a new government.”

He praised the speed at which the three parties had concluded their talks and said the fight against the Covid crisis would first require the full strength of the new coalition.

Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck, who is set to head up a newly formed environment and energy ministry, said the goal was “a government for the people of Germany”.

He stressed that the new government would face the joint challenge of bringing climate neutrality and prosperity together in Europe’s largest industrial nation and the world’s fourth largest economy.

Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a coalition agreement “on the level of reality, on the level of social reality”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who managed to secure the coveted role of Finance Minister in the talks, declared that now was the “time for action”.

“We are not under any illusions,” he told people gathered at the ceremony. “These are great challenges we face.”

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are scheduled to hold  a press conference before midday to answer questions on the goals of the new government.

‘New beginnings’

Together with the Greens and the FDP, Scholz’s SPD managed in a far shorter time than expected to forge a coalition that aspires to make Germany greener and fairer.

The Greens became the last of the three parties to agree on the contents of the 177-page coalition agreement an in internal vote on Monday, following approval from the SPD and FDP’s inner ranks over the weekend.

“I want the 20s to be a time of new beginnings,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly, declaring an ambition to push forward “the biggest industrial modernisation which will be capable of stopping climate change caused by mankind”.

Putting equality rhetoric into practice, he unveiled the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet on Monday, with women in key security portfolios.

“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” said Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”.

READ ALSO: Scholz names Germany’s first gender-equal cabinet

The centre-left’s return to power in Europe’s biggest economy could shift the balance on a continent still reeling from Brexit and with the other major player, France, heading into presidential elections in 2022.

But even before it took office, Scholz’s “traffic-light” coalition – named after the three parties’ colours – was already given a baptism of fire in the form of a fierce fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Balancing act
 
Dubbed “the discreet” by left-leaning daily TAZ, Scholz, 63, is often described as austere or robotic.
 
But he also has a reputation for being a meticulous workhorse.
 
An experienced hand in government, Scholz was labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
 
Yet his three-party-alliance is the first such mix at the federal level, as the FDP is not a natural partner for the SPD or the Greens.

Keeping the trio together will require a delicate balancing act taking into account the FDP’s business-friendly leanings, the SPD’s social equality instincts and the Greens’ demands for sustainability.

Under their coalition deal, the parties have agreed to secure Germany’s path to carbon neutrality, including through huge investments in sustainable energy.

They also aim to return to a constitutional no-new-debt rule – suspended during the pandemic – by 2023.

FDP cabinets
Volker Wissing (l-r), FDP General Secretary und designated Transport Minister, walks alongside Christian Lindner, FDP leader and designated Finance Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), the incoming Education Minister, and Marco Buschmann, the incoming Justice Minister. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

READ ALSO: 

Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens has vowed to put human rights at the centre of German diplomacy.

She has signalled a more assertive stance towards authoritarian regimes like China and Russia after the commerce-driven pragmatism of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Critics have accused Merkel of putting Germany’s export-dependent economy first in international dealings.

Nevertheless she is still so popular at home that she would probably have won a fifth term had she sought one.

The veteran politician is also widely admired abroad for her steady hand guiding Germany through a myriad of crises.

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